Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Insidious: Chapter 3

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion (or other commenters), that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching!  At least it's not Chapter 11, aimirite?  I'll be here all week.  Tip your waitress.

Insidious:  Chapter 3 – 3 out of 5

I wasn’t the most impressed with the first film but was pleasantly surprised with the second one—in fact, I actually thought that if you either watch the two back-to-back or edited them together as a single cohesive film, they would make one really great horror film.  What I’m saying is that the second complimented the first one so well that it actually makes the first even better.  So, that being said, how does Insidious:  Chapter 3 stack up?

What filter will she use for her breakfast photo?  WHAT FILTER?!?

Set before the events in the first and second film, Chapter 3 sees a young girl named Quinn (Stefanie Scott) seek the aid of the psychic Elise Rainer (Lin Shaye).  Elise discovers that Quinn attempted to contact her deceased mother but something else heard and is now tormenting her in her home.  Elise seems to be the only person who can help but fears what hides in the darkness because of a vengeful spirit that wishes her dead.  After Quinn’s father (Dermot Mulroney) realizes what is happening, he is desperate to save his daughter and he enlists the aid of two bumbling ghost hunters:  Tucker (Angus Sampson) and Specs (writer and, making his directorial debut with this one, Leigh Whannell).  Unfortunately, the two are in over their head against the spirit tormenting Quinn but Elise soon realizes that she is the only who can save the young girl and will enter the darkness to rescue her…even if it means facing her darkest enemy.

How can you sleep with x-mas lights on your bed's headboard?

Chapter 3 offers up a nice beginning to the Insidious series and, more importantly, it gives us another opportunity to see Lin Shaye as the awesome badass psychic Elise.  This sequel offers up a very simple, but entertaining, story and it doesn’t spend too much of its time trying to create origins to what we’ve seen in the first two or spend too much time setting up stuff that was already established.  Yes, it gives us a few nods and winks to the events we saw in the first two and it is cool seeing how Elise got hooked up with the goofballs Tucker and Specs but the refreshing thing is the film is all about how Elise got her groove back and how she got over her fear of spirits that lurk in the darkness and why she is so determined to help the living from the dead.

Elise is a fantastic and strong female character...who won't run away from the
darkness wetting her pants like I would end up doing.

I'm too lazy to make a teenager/cutter joke here.
The acting in this feature is definitely top notch.  The new cast members might not be as memorable as the already established members but they are definitely doing their jobs well.  Then again, it’s pretty hard to compare to Sampson, Whannell and Shaye because, at this point, they are not only established but they have their characters down pat and are just dominating.  I know in my review of the first film I didn’t care for Sampson and Whannell’s character because I felt their comedic relief didn’t feel right (and I stick by that) but their humorous actions worked far better in the second film and, once again, they seem to fit excellently in this one.  This time around they are toned down a lot but they still have some fun moments.  My favorite aspect of the cast, however, was just how amazingly awesome Lin Shaye is as Elise.  She’s been great in all the films but she really gets to be a badass in this film—there’s a scene that can only be described as her being a member of the Supernatural Avengers because she has a moment against her astral-antagonist and it makes Elise look all kinds of badass.

Elise is kicking ghost ass!

Scare-wise, Chapter 3 has its moments but isn’t overwhelming terrifying.  Whannell does a great job of mimicking the atmosphere that James Wan create so well in the previous films but I still didn’t find the film that unnerving.  There’s a moment or two that did raise the hair on the back of my neck or actually made me jump but, overall, I wouldn’t say the film is very scary.  In my review of the first film, I stated that I wasn’t scared with that one and only found a moment or two that was creepy and, I have to say, that I walked away with a similar feeling for this one in the scare department.

Oh, that face in the shadows is creepy.

OH SHIT!  That's much worse.  Much, much, much worse!
I've come to love these two.
Insidious:  Chapter 3 is a great addition to the franchise that has a great cast, tells a decent story and the film looks excellent.  The film does sorta feel like a generic sequel to a horror franchise but it works effectively better than most franchises do when they get to their third film.  It wasn’t the scariest (except in the final moments, dear sweet and sour cheese fries, I nearly pissed myself there) but the final product is very entertaining and it really has me desiring to see more stories of Elise taking on angry spirits.

"Okay, all we need now is another female on the team and a dog..."

Leprechaun: Origins

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion (or other commenters), that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching!  You complain about Ghostbusters being rebooted, Internet, but why weren't you fighting this one?  WHY?!?

Leprechaun:  Origins – 1 out of 5

The Leprechaun franchise is one of those cheesy horror film franchises that I really enjoy.  I don’t think it’s scary or that any of them are well-made but I won’t deny how funny and fun they are to watch.  There is definitely a palpable level of fucks not given with each film—heck, the franchise went twice to da hood and even went to space, that’s the level of fucks this film series gave—and there’s no denying the charm to Warwick Davis as the Leprechaun.  Surprisingly, last year, the WWE and their movie studio decided to reboot the franchise and, rather than go with the working fun formula, attempted to change it into a serious horror feature.  Did this shake up make Leprechaun:  Origins better than what we’ve previously seen?  In my humble opinion, absolutely not.

Four completely nondescript white college student backpackers hitchhike their way to a small village in Ireland where they seek history, booze and possibly copious amounts of sex.  After one of the kids—Sophie (Stephanie Bennett)—learns from a local named Hamish (Garry Chalk) about some interesting sites, they decide to stay the night in a seedy cabin loaned to them from the local and his son Sean (Teach Grant).  However, they soon learn that they are merely an offering to a creature that the village disturbed some time ago and the only thing keeping them from being killed is giving the beast sacrifices.  Now Sophia, her boyfriend Ben (Andrew Dunbar) and her friends David (Brendan Fletcher) and Jeni (Melissa Roxburgh) must try and escape the wrath of the monster and get to the safety of the town’s outskirts or they will see themselves victims to the evil Leprechaun.

"We're generic college kids!  Let's get into non-specific backpacking that eventually
leads to formulaic horror!"

Going the serious route is a drastic change in tone from what we are used to in this series and, while I won’t begrudge a risk (going for straight horror worked stupidly well with the Evil Dead remake), I ultimately think this gamble was a bust because this film was even harder to take seriously than all of the other films.  So, what kept this from working?

"What is ye problem, son?  I'm only asking ya to help lead some innocent
travelers to their deaths.  You've been this way ever since ya were a kid.
Remember the fuse ya threw when I'd ask ye to eat your veggies?"

The acting in the film was actually fairly decent.  The four as the college students may have characters that are pretty bland, one-dimensional and lack any real sense of intrigue due to the reality that they are basically horror film clichés but, all-in-all they are doing their jobs well.  Sure, there are times that I laughed at their performances but that was mostly to the couples behavior of Fletcher and Roxburgh—their overly familiar trope of being the oversexed couple was so redundant and seen before so often in the world of horror that it was hard not to laugh at the absurdity of it all—and I did laugh at a point where Brendan Fletcher started to take his role a tad too seriously and was taking a scene that was meant to be more light-hearted and acted like he was in the most serious moment of the most serious film to ever exist.  His face was so stone-set in an overly serious concentration face that I half expected his flesh to rip off his skull due to the strain of his extremely determined listening.  He was just listening that fucking hard and he was prepared to overact the fuck out of that listening.  However, these moments aside, the acting was fairly decent and, in the case of Garry Chalk and Teach Grant, some of the players were very good.

Or maybe the intense face is the only way Fletcher listens?

So, why was this film such a waste of time?  It could easily be the fact that the entire plot plays out in the most predictable manner and even goes towards the line of lifting/borrowing/flat out stealing scenes/sequences/elements from other films.  Or it could be that director Zach Lipovsky was so desperate to never show you the Leprechaun that ever shot of him is badly obscured with either strange camera angles, weak quick cuts, shaking camera usage or just flat-out blurry the shot to the point you wonder if you have something in your eye—and all of this is done so repetitively and so often that I started to wonder if Lipovsky reached his limit of creativity with attempting to hide the creatures features.  Then, it's at that point that he does the POV shots from the Leprechaun.  It is both of these things but the biggest mistake this film was attempting to make the Leprechaun a serious contender for a terrifying beast.

How can the creature see anything with this shitty vision?

The film already loses some major points by being one of those horror films that attempts to turn relatively harmless fork lore and mythological ideas into something more primeval and frightening.  Rarely does this ever work and it usual results in something that is more goofy than anything else and this is seen here in Origins.  The harder this film tries to make the Leprechaun a monster that is meant to terrify you the more I found myself laughing at the absolute absurdity of it all.  Even when Freddy is cracking wise and Jason is punching a dude’s head off in Manhattan, the badass core to these characters is still there and you still perceive them as a threat on some level.  You just can’t get that with the Leprechaun.  With the film series’ history, the actual legend of the wee little gold hoarder and the reality of how awful the costume is in this film (when you get some glances of it) it was made nearly impossible to take the threat seriously.  The fact that the creature barely kills anyone (and one of the biggest kills wasn’t done by him and the rest of them are done mostly off screen or barely scene because of the attempts to hide the Leprechaun) only ends up working against the movie and pretty much puts the nail in the coffin of any threat the film’s antagonist could possibly have.  Shit, Hamish and his dastardly plan to sacrifice the kids was more terrifying than anything the Leprechaun did.

"Come on out, kids.  I mean no harm.  I just want the a mythological beast to
murder ya."

Finally, the reality that this was produced by the WWE and their production company really hurt any possible credibility the film could have had.  No, this isn’t because I hate pro wrestling—the opposite is actually the case there.  While I don’t watch the WWE anymore, I still think pro wrestling is cool and I have the utmost respect for those athletes and what they do to their bodies in the name of sports entertainment.  No, instead the reason their name carries little weight is due to their track record with films.  Their name has not been attached to any really decent or half-way watchable films (to me, anyway).  Additionally, including one of the wrestlers to play the Leprechaun—one who would actually wrestle as a Lucky Charms-esque leprechaun—didn’t help things or make the film better in any way.  In fact, since the Leprechaun is never actually shown properly, having one of their wrestlers play the role and not a cheaper unknown take the part proved to be utterly pointless and really just smacked of Vince McMahon's ego and his need to have his product stamped deeply into it.

And the film has the audacity to not have a stupid one-liner after this death.
Not even something like, "Let me axe you this?  Do you have a splitting headache?"

Amusing side note:  Dylan “Hornswoggle” Postl (the wrestler who plays the Leprechaun) stated that he never saw the other films and never planned to because doing so might have an impact on his performance.  I read this before watching this film and the moment the credits hit and asked myself, “What performance?”  You would never know it was this wrestler because there literally is no performance for the creature.  For one, the monster is barely in the film due to the fact it is constantly filmed around and, secondly, the Leprechaun just growls and snarls.  I’m not entirely sure how Postl could have had his performances ruined by watching other films.  I’m not entirely sure that he even had any say on how to play the Leprechaun since it really feels like the character’s presentation was feathered out in a single sentence in the script.  I doubt there was any creative license allowed on Postl’s part.

So...they really went with that as the costume, eh?

Leprechaun:  Origins took a risk and actively went against absolutely everything you saw in the original series.  There was no goofy antagonist in buckled shoes, no magic to create ironic deaths (hell, this film felt like it barely had a body count) and there was no tongue-in-cheek tone to make the feature amusing.  Instead, the film decided to make the Leprechaun a serious monster and hold a tone that lacks any humor.  If the film actually crafted a suspenseful atmosphere or even contained a unique horror movie feel, this film might have worked and the gamble might have paid off but with a laughable monster, little-to-no death shown or even presenting any real gore, and the downright silly and repetitive attempts the film makes in an effort to not show you its silly, nonthreatening monster creates a film that is infinitely more laughable than all the other films…except, in this case, the laughs were wholly unintentional.

Alien Abduction

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion (or other commenters), that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching!  Let the anal probe jokes begin!

Alien Abduction – 2 out of 5

It’s hard to make an alien abduction film that works and it’s even harder to make it work when you pair it with the overused element of “found footage.”   Due to a seamlessly never ending barrage of cheaply produced films, the “found footage” subgenre has quickly become synonymous with bad filmmaking (or, more accurately, cheap filmmaking) and it’s hard to not assume the worst when you sit down to watch one of these.  I’ve admitted over and over again that I’m not a fan of these features (but do concede that there are some really great ones out there) but I always admit that this subgenre is overflowing with potential.  So, how does the 2014 Alien Abduction do with “found footage?”  Well…not so well.

Whoever made this camera outdid the rest of the competition because it
literally survives re-entry and didn't burn up and only suffered cosmetic damage.

Peter Morris (Peter Holden) and his wife Katie (Katherine Sigismund) decide to take their three children camping out in the woods of North Carolina.  Everything seems to be going well for the parents and their kids; the eldest son Corey (Corey Eid), their daughter Jillian (Jillian Clare) and their autistic son Riley (Riley Polanski).  To cope with his autism, Riley documents everything going on around them on his camcorder and, while doing so, accidentally films some mysterious lights in the sky.  According to experts, the mountains they are camping in are renowned for UFO activity but it seems that lights in the sky isn’t the only thing the Morris family will experience.  After getting lost on their way to their second campsite, they encounter a slew of abandoned cars near a tunnel.  When they go to investigate, they are horrified to find that life from beyond the moon has landed and they are looking to collect human lives.  The family must now flee for their life or be taken away…

So, the aliens save money by making your face do all their anal probing?

For the most part, Alien Abduction isn’t that bad of a “found footage” thriller.  It has a moment or two that is a decent jump scare and acts as a fairly good surprise.  The entire scene where they first encounter an alien is terrifically put together and the acting, while not the greatest, is pretty decent and more than serviceable for the film.  However, the one thing I really enjoyed about this film, above any and everything else, was the fact the film actually presented a real reason for filming to constantly take place.  Even when the alien goo shit is hitting the oscillating fantaphizer and Riley should really be dropping the camera and running away from the alien and their probes, he keeps filming and, unlike a dozen other “found footage” films, it actually makes sense since he is autistic and uses the camera as a coping mechanism.  However, with these elements I enjoyed, I still wasn’t thoroughly impressed with the film and wasn’t wholly entertained.

The constant recording is explained but the hair helmet isn't.

Is that alien moonwalking?
I can overlook that, when you actually get a decent look at them, the aliens look very cheap and almost appear to be store bought costumes but the real killer to this film is two-fold.  The first real killer for Alien Abduction was the addition of a character that wasn’t a member of the family and was a mountain man that the family runs into after they first encounter the aliens.  He’s a typical country bumpkin/"Obama is coming to take my guns" type and that, in and of itself, isn’t that bad but the actor playing him wasn’t the greatest and came off way too cartoony.  Until he showed up, the rest of the cast is doing a fairly decent job—even with the weak attempts the script offers up to introduce and feather out these family members—and this actor just can’t quite match them.  He’s not terrible but he’s a little too hammy.

Gah!  An alien--oh wait, it's the redneck mountain man.

He must have watched the latest Adam Sandler
I can also overlook the fact that within the first few minutes of the film the story hits several horror film tropes—like getting lost in the middle of nowhere, running out of gas AND having the car die all within rapid succession of each other and I can even overlook that the film, for some reason or another, decided to include the internet viral hit song that is “Smell Yo Dick” but I can’t overlook how repetitive the film’s plot gets.  After the awkward introduction to the characters and story, and the cliché lead up to the film’s main point of conflict, the plot ends up going in circles as it involves the family running from the aliens, being found by the aliens, seeing the aliens take one member of the family and then, once again, running from the aliens.  Then it repeats all over again.  That’s pretty much the film and it makes the final product overwhelmingly tedious.

Is that alien shitting?

I honestly expected Alien Abduction to be far worse and far cheaper looking.  Too often when I sit down to a “found footage” film, I expect a director and writer to fart out a quickly made film in an attempt to get the most return for their investment but this one was a little better than I anticipated.  The scares were very predictable and were almost always easily telegraphed jump scares but there’s definitely a moment or two that work, the acting isn’t incredible but it wasn’t terrible either (even from the redneck guy) and even though the aliens look cheap, at least the film actually had a solid foundation for why the entire story is being filmed.  The movie doesn’t break new ground in the world of science fiction, terror, thrills or even “found footage” but the film is half-way entertaining and offers up a well-crafted moment or two.